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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Friday Mental Massage: Tripper

"Fucking tourist."

Some folks may not know it, but over the years, the word "tourist" has become derisive. It's a way to differentiate between the people who "ain't from 'round here" and people who "ain't from 'round here, but know the scene, man."

To put a finer point on it, travelers laugh at tourists. It can sometimes get a little holier-than-thou, but even tourists have to admit, there is usually a pretty clear difference in philosophy. Tourists go to see the sights. Travelers go to live the culture. That, at least in the mind of the travelers, makes their journey better.

I figure I agree. I know travelers and I know tourists. If I had to join one of their clubs, it would certainly be the former. Occasionally, they let me in for a little look at how exciting life can be. It's been a long time since I've been a tourist. Frankly, I think that's why I don't travel more. Seeing the sights ain't my bag.

There is a disconnect in here somewhere. As most regular readers know, I tend to spend more time on the road than your average bear. In just the past four years, it's been Denmark, England, Monaco, France, Austria, the Bahamas, and more than a few American cities. Most of those European trips weren't one-offs. I've been to London three times, Monte Carlo twice, and Austria twice. In 1997, I did the backpacking thing with my college buddies, from London up to Edinburgh, over to Amsterdam, down to Paris, and back up to London. I've off-roaded on the back side of Aruba, went scuba diving in Hawaii, and driven a convertible up the PCH.

It feels a little odd to say, but none of the above feels complete. It seems even more odd when I am just a couple generations removed from relatives who couldn't make it to my wedding because they were uncomfortable with the idea of getting on a plane. That is to say, if they've been anywhere, they've been in a car, and that means they ain't been far. I'd venture to say, if you took a couple people out of my dad's side of the family, I've been more places than all the people I'm related to combined. So, how can it all feel incomplete?

I don't know why I bothered to itemize my travels. I could've just as easily written, "I been around, Pink. I been around." There's a part of me that seems willing to admit that it's an ego thing. Maybe some part of my brain thinks I'm going to impress people by talking about all the places I've been. In truth, though, I've been nowhere.

When I think about travelers, I tend to think about people I know. The two that come to mind most immediately are Pauly (who is a frequent character in my road stories) and Brandon. I've written enough about Pauly that you should get a sense for him. He's a beyond-definition character. That is, the closest you'll ever get to defining Pauly is to talk about where's he been...or better yet, where he's going to be next. While his lifestyle has its drawbacks, it is one most would envy. Brandon, while still a wild and crazy traveler, is not quite as bohemian as Pauly, but still gets the job done. I met Brandon a little more than two years ago in France. At the time, he was a just-from-college poker guy who happened to win a pretty big poker tournament. He ended up parlaying his winnings into some good investments and has been traveling ever since (I think he's supposed to be going to get his MBA soon, but the call of the road is a strong one). Those men are travelers.

The point I'm dancing around here is my inability to enjoy most of the trips I take. I think the travel industry would describe me as a business traveler, an oxymoron if I've ever heard one. If you're on business, you're not traveling in the sense that Pauly and Brandon travel. I can only describe most of my jaunts as "trips."

I am a tripper.

That was a very long way to tell you I'm about to hit the road again. True to form, it's a business trip that will likely result in much more business than pleasure. It's Monte Carlo this time, or I should say, again. This will be my third run into the famed city. While it's a gorgeous place and the event I'm going to work is a very nice one, it's yet another trip that will likely have me under the flourescents more than it has me under the sun. There are a few thing about this trip I can't discuss at the moment, but they should make for a more interesting adventure. Once I'm in a safe zone, I hope to write a little more about it.

Regardless, my return to the road has me thinking about whether I've been using my travel opportunities as good fodder for writing material. I think in most cases I have, but I should made a better effort to do so. There's a part of me that dreams of starting a new life as a travel writer like my friend, Jen Leo. I might have the chops for it. I dunno.

Here's a snippet from "Naked in Copenhagen", a quick blog post I wrote when I landed in Copenhagen, Denmark, sans luggage.

I stopped in "Everything's a Kroner" (not the real name, but folks from the States will recognize the little strip mall dollar stores with the same theme). It's the kind of place you can buy a loose bag of oregano, a ten-pack of razors, and a religious candle in the same trip. When I walked out, I realized I had made it to the center of the city. A group of school children sat outside the Louis Toussaud Wax Museum, begging to be let in a few minutes before the official opening time. Across the way, through the birds, is another touristy place, A Ripley's museum. Beyond those exceptions, though, this doesn't look like a tourist trap. Worker bees buzz in and out of the alleyways. Shopowners push through the cold to take the bars off their shop windows.

When--three hours later--I had finally had enough walking and assembled a suitable outfit to carry me until tomorrow (surely to goodness and mercy SAS will find my bag by Saturday), I stopped into an Irish pub for a pint of Guinness, A row of older men sat in chairs near the windows, enjoying a pint or two, smoking their pipes, and reading the daily news. A man stepped up to me and said something in a language I didn't understand.

The bartender, a friendly woman that must be killing time in the fashion model off- season, said "He's asking you if it's good" and nodded to my Guinness. I smiled at the man and indicated it was. Before I could warn him that I was just a poker correspondent who doesn't have the good sense to pack an extra outfit in his carry-on bag, he'd ordered a couple of pints and moved on with my recommendation.

Friendly, trusting city.

That was far from my best road story, but it's one I remember because someone later quoted a line from the story back to me.

Since we're massaging today, here are a few links to other tripper stories:

Mr. A in the Big A. -- my first trip to New York.
Wrinkled in Europe -- A Nice, France lament on hotel amenities
Stuck in Monte Carlo -- What happens when I'm stupid in a foreign country
A Night at Jimmy'z -- Spitefully rolling with the rich in Monte Carlo's hottest club
Walking in Deauville -- On being alone in France

That's just a few of the stories. I think, after some re-reading, I'm getting some decent stories out of the trips. Still, I'd rather stop tripping and start traveling.

Either way, it's wheels up in 48 hours.


Oh, on another note, someone mentioned recently that they haven't seen my RSS feed in some time. Because of the new Blogger change, old subscribers should resubscribe using the link at the end of the post.

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Anonymous Su said...

Safe travels, Bradley. I hope to read some of your stories from this trip soon.

4:40 PM  
Blogger Dr. Pauly said...

See ya soon!

12:34 PM  

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